Friday, June 25, 2021

Homeland Politics v. Republican Politics


Homeland Politics v. Republican Politics

Peter Schultz


            “The Homeland” seems like such an innocuous phrase, without political implications. But in fact it isn’t innocuous at all, which can be illustrated by contrasting it with the phrase “the republic.”


            In the Pledge of Allegiance, we pledge our allegiance, strictly speaking, not to the flag but to “the republic for which it stands.” A republic, whatever its details, is something that can be lost. Ben Franklin is reputed to have said upon leaving the constitutional convention when he was asked what the proposed constitution established, “A republic, if you can keep it.” A republic is a particular political arrangement, one that may be lost, one that needs to be maintained, one whose future existence is not guaranteed. Whatever its details, a republic is not a homeland and a homeland need not be a republic.


            In fact, “the homeland” has nothing to do with any particular political arrangement. Were the United States a monarchy or a national security state, it could not be a republic; but it would still be “the homeland.” A homeland is a place, not a political arrangement. But although not a particular political order, calling a place “the homeland” has political implications, even significant political implications.


            One implication, already alluded to, is that in the homeland, political arrangements are of peripheral importance, secondary, even subservient to “protecting the homeland” against enemies, foreign and domestic. In protecting the homeland, the creation of “czars,” like “drug czars” or “intelligence czars,” is not controversial. Whether such offices can be grafted on to a republic without subverting the republic is not a question that need be raised. Similarly with what is called “mass incarceration.” Whether a republic can survive mass incarceration isn’t a concern when the goal is “protecting the homeland.” In fact, if “protecting the homeland” requires subverting the republic, then so be it. The homeland is to be protected even at the expense of republican political arrangements, which means that at times republican arrangements get in the way of “protecting the homeland.”


            It is obvious then that “homeland politics” and “republican politics” need not co-exist. In fact, homeland politics – a politics unconstrained by principled political arrangements – and republican politics – a politics bound by principled political arrangements – cannot co-exist. Homeland politics will, when push comes to shove as it always does, undermine, subvert republican politics – which is one reason the elites most interested in acquiring, maintaining, and using their power are quite taken with “protecting the homeland,” as opposed to “protecting the republic.”

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